Wed, 04 October 2023
The UK and Bahrain’s historical relationship has long been built on strong foundations of cooperation and diplomacy. Last month, Lord Dominic Johnson of Lainston CBE visited Bahrain for high-level talks as part of his role as Minister of State in the Department for Business and Trade. He sat down with Kristian Harrison to discuss his role and purpose in Bahrain.
What exactly does your role involve and what have you achieved so far?
The business department is really focused around making sure that we have a strong business base in the UK with a focus on economic growth. My job as Minister for Investment is to showcase the UK as the best possible place to invest anywhere in the world and to make sure that the transactions are facilitated.
Furthermore, I also aim to get Whitehall to look at its activities through the lens of the investor. How can we become more attractive to business investment? How can we facilitate companies investing in the UK by making the rules and regulations as smooth as possible to encourage great international companies to come into the UK, build their businesses and hire people?
What are the greatest challenges you have faced?
First and foremost, we live in a competitive world. 20 years ago, the UK was in a very strong place because very few other countries were truly competing in terms of trying to attract international investment. Now, if you look at what’s going on in the United States with the Inflation Reduction Act and what the EU is doing in terms of offering subsidies and support for inward investment, we have to make sure that we compete. As well as ensuring we are above the competition, we need to guarantee that our domestic regulations, access to the grid, skills, funding and so on are absolutely the best they possibly can be.
What is your purpose for visiting Bahrain?
To showcase the best that Britain has to offer and to follow up on the strategic investment partnerships that we’ve signed. I’ve met with Bahrain’s finance and commerce ministers, some key sovereign wealth funds based in Bahrain and the highlight for me, truly personally, but politically and economically too, was meeting the Crown Prince and Prime Minister, HRH Shaikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa; he was extremely generous to give me a great deal of time to talk through how we can build on the accords that we’ve signed and look at practical ways in which we can benefit each other’s economy through financial services.
What is the current state of the free trade agreement between the UK and Bahrain?
Currently, the UK’s FTA is under negotiation with the GCC and that’s very important for us as it is worth nearly GBP40 billion of trade between the GCC and the UK, putting the region in the top ten in terms of trading partners. Bahrain has played a very important role in promoting the fundamental values of the agreement.
What are your impressions of Bahrain in general?
It’s wonderful and welcoming. The cordiality and generosity which I’ve met today is just exceptional. To be welcomed personally by the Crown Prince for me really says a huge amount about the importance that’s placed on our relationship and the personal courtesy given to me was an unforgettable experience.
What advice would you give to you young people who are pursuing a career in politics and diplomacy?Get involved, play your part and make a contribution. Whether it’s local politics, national politics, participating in the civil service or just promoting our strong alliances through something like the British Chamber of Commerce. Participation is key and if you feel you have something to give, then give it.